Reinventing Journalism

Reinventing Journalism

Media | Judette Coward-Puglisi

August 3, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

‘We live in an age of expression," says Richard Edelman, CEO and President of the largest,  independent communications firm in the world.  

 

Over the past seven days, Edelman’s words have been a constant companion as a colleague and I  envisioned  what a from-scratch online  newspaper would look and feel like. 

 

The truth is even though writer Laura Dowrich (also former journalist) once reminded me that Trinidad’s low  Internet  penetration rates mean that print will be around for sometime, I think you would have to be foolish not to see the graffiti on wall, its psychedelic strokes portending a future no less mind-altering . 

 

Within the last 12 months, local newspaper prices have gone up to compensate for a loss in advertising dollars.  Newsrooms have laid off staff, the latest being the Express. More telling is that the  dailies have started  utilising twitter and facebook  as a way to push content. Even the once stodgy Trinidad Guardian is getting accolades for its  Twitter account that connects reporters to readers with breaking news updates, twitpics of headlines, and informal chat.  

 

This brings me back to my friend’s question about what defines online journalism and Edelman’s observation about the change in the way we live and communicate. 

 

Reporting no doubt takes on an altogether different context when you’re thinking about online journalism. It’s no longer about journalists telling a story and then moving quickly onto the next. Less still is it about editors knowing what’s  best. You know that old paternalistic model; “We know what the public needs but the public can’t be trusted to know what it wants.” 

 

New journalism is really  about editors/reporters being responsive on social networks in ways that allow for  a continuous connection with the public and for  private/public conversations to take place. It is about building a platform that is both  personal and outward  looking as well as developing a community that basically becomes the reason for the site’s existence, with the content on the outside.

 

I know. I know. This sounds  sacrilegious. Journalists have forever made content king and editors have held on tightly to the crown.  And while content in an online world is still the bane of a newspaper’s existence,  I think it is the engagement of the public that defines the new media. 

 

 The Iran elections (still a trending topic on Twitter) makes for a good example. It’s history now that  when  mainstream media reporters were kicked out of the country, it was  citizen contributors communicating  via Twitter and Facebook and cell phones that  allowed  the story to be kept on the front pages for a full three weeks after the fact.   Reporters also responded to the “vox populi” by amending story leads and  headlines based on feedback from the community, all of this in real time.

 

Two of the best examples of on-line journalism at work are the Huffington Post and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). 

 

Currently, the WSJ  does a great job of allowing their reporters and  experts to  chat in  comment threads and  setting up scheduled and impromptu real-time interactive opportunities.  And while  the content on the Huffington Post attracts  20 million unique visitors a month, it is the  1.5 million  comments  (each month) that fertilises their on-line ecosystem. 

 

Bloggers are going to be critical to the process of news gathering and story telling. And I am not talking about merely transferring editorial comments and columnists onto a word press format or the likes. I  am referring to  hearing real stories and opinions  from those who are in charge, from government leaders, to CEOs , from the people in theater and the fashionista in the audience to the athlete. All  these folk with their  independent and varied stream of consciousness have enriched the Net for years and will no doubt be credible voices in an online newspaper world.

 

These are just some of the points I’ve been mulling over  but they certainly shed light on  the comment about living in the age of expression if only because for the very first time, the  conversation and debate  with citizen journalist ‘is as important as the reporting and subsequent story’. 

 

I would love to know what you think about the ways newspapers can be reinvented or debuted in an online world.

 

Tomorrow, media consultant Lenny Grant’s guest post  on the battle between traditional and new media will be featured on this blog.

 

 

 

 

 
 

6 thoughts on “Reinventing Journalism

  1. This piece makes some strong points. Gone are the days where bias is taboo. The public knows that reporters are human. It is my belief that readers trust you most when they know where you stand, and are able to judge their own viewpoints against yours.

    Thanks for posting!

  2. Great post, I strongly believe that this change is going to happen sooner than later. I look at the present crop of new media professionals in Trinidad (you, the wonderful person at @gayelletv, Georgia Popplewell) and I get really excited.

  3. Thanks so much Marlon. I too admire Georgia and Gayelle, they deliver cutting edge content on the various social media platforms. I particularly admire what Georgia is dong with Global Voices.

  4. Nurse Karen. Welcome to the blog.

    I disagree with you on one point, I don’t think there should bias in reporting whether in the traditional or new media platforms.

    What I do think is that new media allows for other credible voice to emerge not necessarily distilled by what an editor thinks is newsworthy (or not) . It allows for a richer kind of conversation and more participation. That’s the model that’s evolving now and it can’t be stopped.

  5. Hi I like this topic….. this is pretty interesting….. great post…… I am into sports and the low level of coverage some major running events get from mainstream media …. make me wonder.
    I will rant a lot if I continue on this trend…. But it is good to see we have a blog/space covering this aspect of the news in T&T.
    Will be checking your blog regularly to see what you are posting.

    Thanks and keep it up

  6. Ha. The causeway should be broadened and the connections made deeper. Thanks for the clarification Mark

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